LEADing with our values amidst the pandemic’s ‘Big Quit.

LEAD programming is a key part of NLC Institute

April 14, 2022 //Clare Bresnahan English

As our country tries to recover from the health, social, and economic toll of COVID-19, pundits have been astonished by the phenomenon called ‘The Big Quit,’ the ‘Great Resignation,’ and ‘lying flat.’ Thousands have left jobs, stepped away from activities, or felt compelled to turn everything on its head. 

This shouldn’t be shocking. Continuously navigating so much uncertainty is draining, especially coupled with the social injustice that intensified during the pandemic. Rampant misinformation and vitriol add to the exhaustion. Our systems clearly weren’t designed to support the most vulnerable. 

No wonder so many are choosing to focus on what’s most important to their health and wellbeing. 

When everything feels constantly uncertain, we look for an anchor. During the NLC Institute, our Fellows learn how their values will anchor them to what matters most. Like a tree, one’s values are the roots. Strengthened by continuous growth and a strong ecosystem of support, a stable trunk holds us up even among the fiercest winds of change.

“When we are sure-footed in who we are, we always have something to come back to. When we know what defines us is not any job or thing we own or professional title we carry, it makes us less likely to lose our way if we lose any of those things.”

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual
Luvvie Ayjai Jones (NLC Chicago ‘10)

For me and thousands across the NLC network, our LEAD curriculum has provided a roadmap for when the path needs to shift. When things get too heavy to carry. When the way forward becomes uncertain. 

NLC starts the six-month, place-based Institute with LEAD (Lead, Engage, Advocate, and Develop) curriculum because we know that understanding one’s personal and collective values is crucial for creating the change we seek in our communities. As a cohort, Fellows identify and share their five core values and reflect how these values show up – or are missing – in their lives. 

Saying no to what no longer aligns with one’s values is an essential leadership skill. Our Fellows learn the “Stop, Start, and Keep” method in LEAD. They consider past and current actions, behaviors, and relationships – all in the frameworks of what they want to ‘stop,’ ‘start,’ and ‘keep.’ 

While the pandemic ebbs and flows, people across the country and world are asking these same questions. But for NLC Fellows and alumni who have had the privilege of dedicated time for self-reflection, they have a headstart on evaluating their next move – or their Big Quit if appropriate. 

As an NLC alum and former LEAD trainer, it’s been the honor of a lifetime to serve alongside NLC volunteers as President and CEO. Years after my fellowship in 2012, I still revisit the curriculum that teaches us how to recenter by focusing on our values when the way forward is unclear.

As a Fellow, I named and committed to values of inclusion and empathy that guided me through my work at She Should Run, in racial justice and gender equity consulting, and now at NLC HQ. 

Every year, the Fellows consistently share that the LEAD program changed who they are and how they choose to make an impact. And it’s all possible because of the NLC alumni who volunteer as LEAD trainers. These volunteer trainers guide Fellows down a path of self-discovery with care and compassion. They contribute their precious energy, boundless creativity, and willingness to fuel the momentum of change in their communities. 

I know firsthand that volunteering as a LEAD facilitator requires immense commitment. Alumni do it because it is one of the most fulfilling experiences NLC has to offer.  We know that together with the support of the NLC network, our work propels progress. We do this work to make a collective impact and the care we have for one another models the kinder, gentler, equitable world we seek. 

I cannot say this enough – thank you, NLC volunteers. And thank you, 2022 Fellows, for your curiosity and self-awareness as you complete your NLC Institute journeys. We look forward to continuing the momentum of our movement with you, as NLC alumni and volunteers, for many years ahead. 

Alumni: Do you want to make a difference in the lives on NLC Fellows? Apply to be a LEAD facilitator! Alumni have until April 18, 5 p.m. PT to submit an application.